BEIRUT

Middle East

Syria Kurds 'to send two delegations to peace talks'

Ahmed Jarba, the head of the Syrian National Coalition opposition group, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Bayan Palace in Kuwait December 8, 2013. REUTERS/Jassim Mohammed

KAWERGOSK, Iraq: Syria's Kurds will send two delegations to upcoming peace talks, one with the opposition coalition and another with representatives of President Bashar al-Assad, opposition leader Ahmed Jarba said Friday.

"The Kurds will participate in the Geneva meeting in two delegations," Jarba, leader of the National Coalition, told AFP during a visit to the Kawergosk Syrian refugee camp in Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region.

The Geneva 2 peace talks are scheduled to open in Montreux, Switzerland on January 22.

There will be "a delegation within the (opposition) coalition and a regime delegation," Jarba said, without saying who was who.

But it seems likely that the Kurdish National Council (KNC), which is part of the opposition coalition, will attend with opposition representatives, while the People's Council of Western Kurdistan (PCWK), which is seen as close to the regime, will accompany the government representatives.

The main group in the PCWK is the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the most powerful armed Kurdish organisation in Syria.

The KNC and PCWK, the two main Syrian Kurdish groups, have been at odds since the latter announced last month a transitional autonomous administration for Kurdish-majority areas of northeastern and northwestern Syria without the former's backing.

Since Tuesday, they have been holding talks in Arbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, aimed at establishing a unified front ahead of the talks.

"We held a series of meetings with our brothers in the People's Council of Western Kurdistan, with the aim of unifying the Kurdish stance more and more," KNC spokesman Nassereddin Ibrahim told AFP.

Ibrahim said the goal was still for an independent Kurdish delegation, but if that does not happen, "we will speak with a shared vision," and "the two delegations (will) represent the will of the Kurdish people in Syria, for the sake of a democratic Syria."

More than 126,000 people have been killed in the 33-month civil war.

But Kurdish-majority areas of the country's northeast were relatively quiet until clashes broke out this year between Kurdish militia and jihadist rebels.

The fighting pushed tens of thousands of Syrian Kurds across the border into Iraqi Kurdistan, which the United Nations says now hosts moe than 203,000 Syrian refugees, the vast majority of those in Iraq.

 

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